Animal biotechnology is making significant contributions to preventative medicine by opening new ways to construct genetically modified marker vaccines, DNA vaccines and other tools for improved and safer immunisation against infectious diseases in animals and man. Biotechnology can be applied to animal vaccines, antibodies and therapeutic proteins to create medicinal products for animals.
Hendra Virus – Case Study
More than 80 horses and four humans have died from Hendra virus since it was discovered in Queensland in 1994. In 2011, there was an unprecedented spike in the number of infections in horses in Queensland and New South Wales, and the first dog tested positive to the virus. This prompted the Queensland, New South Wales and Commonwealth Government National Hendra Virus Research Program to each contribute AU$3 million towards Hendra virus research. From this, a AU$1.2 million grant was provided to fund a clinical trial of a human monoclonal antibody capable of neutralising Hendra virus through a collaboration involving a number of LSQ Members: AIBN, the University of Queensland and Q-Pharm. This therapy is not a vaccine for the general population – instead it is “expected to improve a person’s chance of survival should they come into contact with the Hendra virus”. It is important to note that this therapy does not replace the horse vaccination program.
The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and Queensland Health have been working collaboratively with CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) to understand the virus and develop control mechanisms and treatments for horses.
Through a collaboration between the United Services University of the Health Sciences in the United States and Pfizer Animal Health Australia, a vaccine for the virus, EquiVac HeV, has been developed.
EquiVac HeV is injected into the horse, and not only does the vaccine prevent further spread of the disease and the loss of livestock/animals, but it ensures that humans working with the horses are at a reduced risk of contracting the virus. In August 2015, EquiVac HeV was registered as the Hendra virus vaccine, with mandatory vaccination requirements put in place in the equine industry.